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Archive for the ‘Montreal Museums’ Category

The Montreal Fine Arts Museum has an extensive collection and makes effective use of their modern spaces. It’s best not to try to cram everything into one exhaustive visit, but to repeatedly go back to view specific sections (a tip which I routinely forget and remember again around the Napolean floor). Even one pavilion could take multiple trips. And why not? The majority of the museum is free of charge, including audioguides; usually only the special large-scale exhibitions have entrance fees. Large crowds can form at the ticket counter for new and especially popular exhibits like the Tiffany exhibit and the recent Jean Paul Gaultier fashion exhibit. The special exhibits are well thought out and worth the fee. The Miles Davis exhibit last year was enormous and included multiple listening stations to experience music from various periods of his career. The current special exhibition features iconic pop art by Tom Wesselmann.

There are four multilevel pavilions. The stairs in the contemporary glass pyramid-shaped Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion are frustratingly shallow and better suited to a cascading water display than for walking, but they look nice. This pavilion is the only entrance to the museum, despite being spread out across the street. Medieval art is on the top floor, working down to contemporary art in the basement level and special exhibition level in between. There is a pleasant café for lunch on the second level.

The Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion is across the street, which distinguished columns and stone steps proclaim that it is a Museum, although one may only enter through the building across the street. Figurines, pottery, masks, and statues from around the world are displayed in this more traditional set up. The Liliane and David M. Stewart houses furniture and design items – decorative arts that perhaps might be seen in someone’s home. The Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion has all of the Quebec and Canadian art. Paintings, sculptures, and Inuit sculptures can be found at this newest pavilion of the museum.

By the Guy-Concordia metro or the Peel metro

1380 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest and Rue Crescent

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Floating solidly in the middle of McGill’s downtown campus, the Redpath Museum is everything one would expect from a classic Victorian museum. The grey stone exterior leads into a traditional Victorian museum interior. Inside, on hardwood floors, its exhibits are encased in uniform antique stained wood and glass cases. There’s a Grecian urn, a letter from Charles Darwin, and a prominently displayed skeleton of Dromaeosaurus albertensis, which while a relative of the better known Velociraptor, can almost be imagined as a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton. Don’t all Victorian museums need a T-rex skeleton? It would be easy to envision a Victorian nanny browsing through the cases pushing a perambulator and ushering around charges wearing coordinated traveling clothes. A whole Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton probably wouldn’t have fit in the small museum, anyway (they do have a head somewhere).

The museum would probably be best appreciated by school-aged children, around the age when they become obsessed with dinosaurs and rock polishers. There are a number of signs emphasizing quiet behaviour and admonishing against running in the halls leaving children unattended, so it seems to be a popular destination for school-aged children. It is small and I was able to get through all three floors during my lunch hour. The exhibits are mostly minerals, sea shells, taxidermy, and bones. The ground level entrance hall is air conditioned, but the second and third levels had only strategically placed desk fans on a very warm spring day and was noticeably warmer and smellier thanks in part to the numerous taxidermy exhibits. It’s also a working research facility, and museum patrons walk by numerous offices in between the various exhibits.

Admission is free and the museum is open to the public.

Metro: McGill

859 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest and Rue McTavish (McGill University downtown campus)

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Despite this being Montreal’s archeological museum, built around the original city center, the temporary exhibits are what entices repeat visits. My favourite was an Easter Island exhibit, which included a large concrete replica of an Easter Island head in front of the museum and an incredible documentary about Westerners removing some of the massive statues from the island on barges, which ended with the haunting phrase along the lines of “the women sang songs lamenting their stolen gods.” The brand new samurai exhibit is just as enthralling, with an impressive array of samurai armor, weaponry, and cultural paraphernalia. The temporary space is not large, but the space is well-used. Construction for expanding the museum is underway. The museum also organizes two worthwhile outdoor events during the spring and summer – the Cultural Feast in May and the 18th Century Market in August.

Visitors can watch a short and somewhat corny introductory video to Montreal history, and can tour the ruins in the bottom level, which stretches under the street to exit at the gift shop. This makes the museum a popular destination for student field trips.

The belvédère at the top of the museum, which is accessible via the elevator and stairs without a museum pass, provides a nice view of the old port and has view holes which point out landmarks. The view is especially nice on a clear day. The cafe, l’Arrivage, is also accessible without a museum pass, and is worth a visit, especially for brunch. I would recommend having brunch around 11am before the restaurant gets crowded, and then enjoying the rest of the museum.

Metro: Place d’Armes

350 Place Royale and De la Commune

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